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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

DISTORT   AND   HUMAN   RELATIONS

revised perspective really amounts to—it provides us
with almost a definition of what is implied in the progress
of historiography as it moves further away from ther
events that are being narrated, further away from the
state of being contemporary history. The progress
of historiography takes us away from that first simple
picture of good men fighting bad; and not merely in
the case of seventeenth-century England, but in one
field of history after another we find that it contributes
a new and most uncomfortable revelation—it gradually
disengages the structural features of a conflict which
was inherent in the dialectic of events. It shows us
situations hardening, events tying themselves into knots,
human beings faced by terrible dilemmas, and one
party and another being driven into a corner. In other
words, as the historiography of a given episode develops
and comes to be further removed from the passions of
those who were active in the drama, it uncovers at the
basis of the story a fundamental human predicament—
one which we can see would have led to a serious
conflict of wills even if all men had been fairly intelligent
and reasonably well-intentioned. Perhaps it was this
reformulation of the conflict which Lord Acton had in
mind when he suggested that it needs the historian to
come on the scene at a later time to say what it was that
these poor seventeenth-century Royalists and Round-
heads were really fighting about.

In the new organisation of the narrative the personal
goodness or badness of Charles I may still appear to be
operative but it ceases to be the central issue, ceases to
be the basis for the mounting of the whole story* We

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